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This Halloween, I’m Not Dressing Up In Shame

by Elcie Burrows

On Halloween 15 years ago, I was raped. I was 15, I was a virgin and I don’t know who did it. I’m not going to go into any more details except to say that it was as traumatic as you’d expect, and for a while my life really, really sucked.

This is not an article about being a rape victim or a rape survivor. It’s not an article about the emotional after effects or how I came to terms with what happened.  This is about the attitude that society has towards people who have been raped, and why the holy good crap can’t we just talk about it?!

To put it mildly, dealing with being raped is shitty. But it is also pretty shitty that, 15 years later, society hasn’t really moved on in how we treat people who are raped. Yes, we talk about it more in general terms and yes, there is a lot more help available. That’s fantastic, and a step in the right direction. However, we’re still not really comfortable with people who have been raped talking about rape…which doesn’t make much sense, does it?

For some reason, I’m supposed to be ashamed of the fact I was raped. Hell, I’m not even supposed to using the word rape lest I cause offence or embarrassment to someone’s delicate ears. Over the years I’ve used every synonym and allusion possible to avoid saying the dreaded R word. “That thing that happened” has been the most commonly used reference. Even then, I only talk it when I’m with my closest friends and everybody’s three sheets to the wind.  But for the sake of this article, and my own life henceforth, I am going to call a spade a spade and a rape a rape. Very sorry if that offends you, world, but please feel free to suck it up.

The thing is, I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about being raped. I literally did nothing wrong. Somebody else committed a crime against me. One time, my house got broken into. That’s a crime committed against me too, and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about that either. Yet I get very different reactions from bringing those two things up in conversation…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I want to talk about how I was raped everyday all day to anyone who’ll listen. I’m not trying to tell the postman about it when I’m signing for a parcel. There are, however, some conversations in which it would be very useful to be able to mention it, without whomever I’m talking with turning red and losing their ability to form words.

As I mentioned, I was raped on Halloween. As I mentioned, being raped is shitty. Being raped on a major holiday that revolves about everybody concealing their identity and generally scaring the fuck of each other does add a certain extra layer of shitty-ness to the trauma. So, I don’t really like to go out on Halloween. The juxtaposition of how I’m feeling about the date (Crap and in need of ice cream and wine), in comparison to how everybody else is feeling (Hooray! Let’s party! Fireworks! Best night of the year!), combined with the aforementioned who-the-fuck-are-you-under-that-mask-jumping-out-at-me-ness has resulted in it just being best if I sit Halloween night out.

And again, I’m okay with that.  But here comes the science …sorry, shame bit. Halloween means a buck load of party invites and therefore me having to come up a buck load of excuses. I’m not okay with that. Why am I having to lie because 15 years ago some sick asshole committed a crime against me? For the last few years instead of making up some lame ass excuse I’ve been saying “Sorry, I can’t make it, I’m busy,” without any further clarification in the hope people think I’m mysterious (and possibly involved in some sort of top secret witchcraft activity) instead of just an anti-social asshole (which is what they probably think).

I actually don’t want to lie to my friends anymore. I’m only lying to save their face, but fuck it, I was the one that was raped and I’m bored of dressing up in a costume of shame every Halloween.

So, here’s the truth, everybody: I don’t want to go out on Halloween because 15 years ago I was raped. I’d rather just sit in, eat some ice cream, drink some wine and think about how awesome I am to have overcome that and be okay. Please don’t feel embarrassed that I’ve said the word rape and please don’t feel awkward because I’m okay with talking about the fact that I was raped. If you ever want to ask me about it, that’s okay. Also, if you ever want to ask me about the time I was burgled, that’s okay too.

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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